Collecting Consumer Debt in America

14 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2007

See all articles by Robert M. Hunt

Robert M. Hunt

Consumer Finance Institute, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Date Written: 2007


Why should economic scholars study the consumer debt collection process? First, the cost and effectiveness of the collections process has implications for the pricing and availability of consumer credit. Second, changes in technology and the structure of credit markets have transformed the collections industry. Small mom-and-pop operations are increasingly being replaced by firms operating nationally, collecting on billions of dollars in bad debt purchased from creditors.

This article explores how creditors and their agents attempt to collect past-due consumer debt, particularly unsecured debt. Creditors have a number of remedies open to them, but their effectiveness is limited by the fact that consumers can file for bankruptcy. Even outside of bankruptcy, consumers enjoy a variety of legal protections, including some they may not be aware of.

Keywords: collections, collection agencies, debt buyers, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

JEL Classification: G20, G28, D14

Suggested Citation

Hunt, Robert M., Collecting Consumer Debt in America (2007). Available at SSRN: or

Robert M. Hunt (Contact Author)

Consumer Finance Institute, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States
215-574-3806 (Phone)
215-574-7101 (Fax)

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